Colin Kerrigan, Chairman of the Thomas Ashe Society in Omagh, speaks out about PSNI abuse of the nationalist community in the town, questioning the wisdom of providing legitimacy and political support to what remains a failed police force incapable of escaping the violent, murderous history of its discredited predecessor, the Royal Ulster Constabulary.

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Anyone watching the recent Spotlight investigation into PSNI abuse in Omagh no doubt found the programme a disturbing insight into policing malpractice in both the town itself and across the wider north. Images of police officers using brute violence against ordinary nationalists going about their business surely puts pay to the notion of a ‘new beginning to policing’ championed locally by the SDLP and Sinn Fein, demonstrating the futility of their so-called ‘critical engagement’ with what remains in effect an unreformed RUC.

At a broader level collusion with loyalist death squads continues to dominate discussion around policing, most notably with the shocking revelation that PSNI is actively obstructing the six-county Police Ombudsman’s investigations into the murder of up to 60 nationalist civilians and counting during the Troubles. The fact it’s the PSNI being pursued through the courts by families seeking truth and justice rather than the old RUC itself demonstrates the lineal relationship between the two and just who the PSNI really are.

That, coupled with the outrageous behaviour of uniformed officers in Omagh, surely has people wondering just what has really changed when you scratch the surface, when you separate image from what’s real. What’s real is that PSNI were shown battering young nationalists off the streets of Omagh, what’s real is that PSNI continues to obstruct justice and cover for the criminal involvement of its predecessor in murder, what’s real is that PSNI remains alienated from a sizeable section of the community in the six-counties with its reputation in tatters.

The PSNI has next to zero credibility at this point and with that in mind the least we should expect from political representatives here is that they do not give succour and legitimacy to this discredited organisation. This situation needs reviewed as a matter of public interest by those concerned because legitimising what is in effect a repackaged RUC, with a new cap and badge, in the hope it can be changed from within, is clearly beyond the limits of what’s possible.